Teachers protest proposed cuts; support workers review tentative agreement
By Maureen Robertson
Asking teachers to take a 13 percent ongoing pay cut is unrealistic, unnecessary, and unfair, Ramona Teachers Association President Donna Braye-Romero told school trustees.
“It’s a permanent solution for a temporary problem,” she said.
With an estimated 110 teachers packing the room for the trustees’ Sept. 19 meeting, Braye-Romero outlined reasons the teachers union believes the district’s proposal “makes no sense to us at all.” Among them: district numbers have changed, teachers who retired have not been replaced, not all of the teachers laid off last school year have returned and many who have are only working 40 percent jobs, and class sizes are larger.
Grant McNiff, RTA’s chief negotiator, said the union looks forward to the negotiations meeting with the district on Sept. 26, “seeking solutions and middle ground.”
Also at the meeting, Kris Blaszcak, chief negotiator for the Ramona chapter of California School Employees Association representing the district’s support staff, reviewed cuts these workers have taken since last September.
CSEA members are scheduled to vote Friday, Sept. 28, on a tentative agreement their negotiations team approved last week. The tentative agreement calls for 9.5 percent in cuts this year, she said.
The ongoing effect of three previous reductions for CSEA workers total $1.12 million, Blaszcak said: $139,575
in reductions in hours and loss of benefits last September; $750,000 savings from reductions in hours, loss of benefits, and layoffs effective March 2, 2012; and $230,000 in savings from reductions in hours and loss of benefits effective July 1, 2012. In addition, the district saved $134,000 when CSEA workers took three unpaid furlough days last school year.
“We have given a lot,” she said, adding, “there is much anxiety about this (tentative) agreement among our members.
“We are the working poor of this district, and there are members who may lose much more than just pay with these cuts.”
Workers are worried about losing their homes and about not being able to afford medical coverage for their families, she said.
“In closing, I have a request to you, the school board,” she said. “My request is to not ask us for more than this, because this is the limit of what we can bear.”
To balance its budget and maintain a required reserve, Ramona Unified School District was looking for $4 million in cuts from its employees this school year. Its management staff, which also took three unpaid furlough days in 2011-12 and agreed to a HealthNet Buy-Up Plan last year, in July agreed to contribute the equivalent of 10.53 percent of total compensation toward a benefits package.
RTA last year refused to take any unpaid furlough days, saying the district had money.
“The primary focus of this governing board proposal…is to align employee compensation expenses with reduced state funding,” reads the district’s revised proposal to RTA.
The proposal to RTA was for $2.7 million in cuts.
“The board is prepared to make adjustments,” Superintendent Robert Graeff said on Monday.
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